I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not but damn, there are a lot of distractions in our world! It’s becoming more and more difficult to remain focused. Our attention spans are getting shorter each day. With constant notification pings from phones and computers, more and more work demands, and social media playing a significant role in the level of our attention spans, virtually everyone has some variation of attention deficit disorder. People can’t even get through a one-hour meeting without checking their cell phones. With so much noise, how does one remain focused on anything? I’m going to share four tips to help you stop procrastinating and get focused.
While I like to think I’ve had good strategies for productivity and focus, I have to say, there are times I struggle and have to FOCUS on being focused! I have so many ideas right now that I’m a bit like my Labrador every time he sees a squirrel.
Related Article: How to Stay Focused in Virtual Meetings
1. Turn off all the notifications on your phone and computer.
If possible, keep your phone in another room, drawer, or somewhere you can’t see it. Just do this for an hour at a time or if you can’t manage an hour, 30 minutes. Turn off the ringer, act as if you aren’t available, are in a meeting, in the shower, the bathroom, or are out to lunch with a friend. Because I’m a morning person, I keep my phone in a different room for the first three hours of my workday. This allows me to focus on creating content. When I need to replenish my coffee, I’ll check and see if there is anything urgent I need to handle. Before you get all, “but what if my family needs me?”, let’s explore “need” vs “want.” “Need” implies life or death and if someone is in a life or death situation, they should be calling 911, not you. If you can’t go one hour without responding to someone, you’ve got bigger problems.
2. Meditation, even if you don’t know how.
Yeah, yeah, I know. You’ve tried it and it’s boring. Or, you’ve tried it and can’t clear your mind. Or, meditation is too “froo, froo, hippie, new agey” for you. By far, this is the single greatest tool in my arsenal. Although I’ve been meditating for years, I recently learned a new meditation that completely clears my mind of all thoughts at the beginning of each day. I can’t begin to tell you how amazing it is to sit down to work with a completely clear mind (as opposed to my previous mind of years and years of thought clutter). With all the clutter I had up there, it’s amazing I was able to string a coherent sentence together. Here’s the thing to remember, meditation is not about NOT thinking, it’s about seeing the thoughts but letting them go – releasing them. If you can manage one minute of meditation, start there and add to it each day. I’m telling you, this is a game-changer!
3. Plan and Prioritize Tasks for Day.
Plan and Prioritize Tasks for the Day. Yes, it’s true, plans and priorities both change and that’s okay. At least have a starting point. Begin your day by looking at not only what needs to be done but which items on that list are going to have the greatest impact on your most important goals. I’m forever grateful that back in the day I learned, practiced, and implemented the Franklin Covey Planner System down to an art. It’s old school for sure and can be really difficult to manage in our digital world. Use the system that works for you but make sure you do the following things each day. There truly is something about writing down my priorities and being able to look at that list all day, mark off accomplishments, and move forward on those tasks that I don’t get accomplished.
- Start each day by taking 5 minutes to jot down all the tasks that need to be accomplished. Go crazy and write down everything you can think of!
- Now, go back through that list and prioritize with either an A, B, C or 1, 2, 3 (or whatever works for you) based on which tasks will have the greatest impact on your life, goals, family, and health. Yeah, you can do the dishes, weed the garden, and do lots of other things but which of the items on your list will impact your life and goals the most. Sure, you need to call Karen back but is calling Karen more important than designing that product you want to launch? Or are you calling Karen to procrastinate doing something that could really change your future? It’s so easy to fill up our time with activities that really have no value. Like doing the dishes. Does anyone care but you? By consciously creating a plan each day, you’ll be forced to think about your life and future in a different way. And you’ll become hyper-aware of how you are spending every moment.
- After you’ve prioritized the list, get started on those tasks that will have the greatest impact on your life (and the lives of others). You are going to feel so great as you mark off those tasks because you’ll know you used your time on earth well. Sure, you’re going to have to complete some of the lower priority tasks too, just don’t make them the priority. I navigate it this way – I’m the most productive and clear-minded in the morning so I work on my high-priority tasks then. I don’t waste time in the morning responding to emails and phone calls because that doesn’t require the mental clarity that I need to work on other things. In the afternoon, when my energy is waning, I do more menial tasks- things that don’t require a lot of mental focus for me.
- Look at the list of tasks all damn day. I literally am looking at my list every couple of hours and marking off those things completed as well as reviewing what’s left. This is what keeps me focused. When I find myself going down a rabbit hole, looking at the list is what brings me back to what’s most important. Rabbit holes are generally urgent (meaning someone has called and has a “crisis” or is standing in front of you wanting you to solve their problem) but not that important.
- End of Day Recap. At the end of the day, celebrate all the shit you got accomplished! There will be things you didn’t get to and hey, did the world quit revolving because you didn’t get to it? Nope. We all kept chugging along. Take those items that didn’t get done and put them on tomorrow’s list.
- Each morning, review the prior day’s accomplishments and tasks to ensure none of the tasks fall off the radar. I get a mental reward by reviewing what has been accomplished. And I also make sure nothing falls through the cracks by following up on the items that were not accomplished. The reality is most of us can’t get everything on the list accomplished in a day. That’s okay. Just don’t lose sight of them. You might actually find that after you’ve moved them forward to the next day for a week, they aren’t really that important after all and maybe you’ll remove them from the list altogether (or delegate them to someone else). At least make it a conscious decision.
I created a video on this topic you can watch here. It actually includes some different tips than what you see in this blog post.
4. Keep an idea notebook
If you are someone that has a constant flood of ideas flowing through you that you don’t want to miss, keep an idea notebook. Ideas come to me during meditation, on long walks in nature, and sometimes just in conversation. I capture them both digitally and in a notebook. If I’m out walking I use an app on my phone to record ideas and thoughts. At the end of each day, I move all those ideas to my notebook so they don’t distract my ability to be present with others (or worse yet, my sleep). Once a week, generally on Friday afternoon, I review that notebook and decide whether to add the tasks to the following week’s priorities. The point here is, that I’m making conscious decisions as opposed to reacting to all the distractions (i.e. squirrels) my mind presents to me each day.
I’d love to know your tips for staying focused! Leave them in the COMMENTS below!
Let me know if you found these tips useful by LIKING, SHARING, and/or commenting below, and hey, stay FOCUSED!